Turning Stumps into Sculptures

Dead Trees Get New Life from Local Artist Della Meredith

By Esther Davis McKenna
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Della Meredith won her first art competition in kindergarten and has been creating art ever since. Forty years later, she has perfected her craft in the preferred medium of three-dimensional art pieces. These days you will find her on a ladder, with a chainsaw in hand, shaving sculptures from snags - standing dead and dying trees from freezes, hurricanes, or floods. 

 “I don’t remember my life without art in it,” Meredith said. “The first book I ever took out from the library was about art. I’ve been creating and learning about art as early as I can remember anything.” 

 Meredith is a well-rounded artist who has mastered woodworking, soldering, casting, sculpting, and painting. She learned how to paint murals from her artist mother and has painted many beach scenes on doors, windows, and tiki bars in and around Galveston.

 Meredith grew up in Pasadena, lives in La Porte, and has been coming to Galveston all of her life. “I’ve been influenced and mentored by several Galveston artists,” she said. 

 She has an extensive background in art education as well. She was president of the art club in high school where she was also named the Most Outstanding in Fine Arts. 

 She earned a degree in Fine Arts, with an emphasis on three-dimensional design, from Sam Houston State University. Meredith also taught art in middle and high schools in Kingswood and several other districts. 

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 Meredith was hired by a tiki bar company to come in and paint whatever project they were creating. “They needed someone who could create the finishing, artistic, touches the company needed to complete a particular job. I made a lot of contacts during this time and met several chainsaw artists.” 

 One of those artists was Derek Dame. “I was painting Derek’s tiki sculptures and he knew I was wanting to learn how to carve stumps. He was generous in his suggestions and tips and I found his art so inspiring. He was very helpful to me during the learning process.” 

 StumpsStumps“When he passed away earlier this year, I was surprised that he left me his chainsaw and chisels and all of his other sculpting tools. I was touched beyond words that he would trust me with all of that,” Meredith said. 

 Meredith started with a small, old electric chainsaw that she bought at a pawn shop and practiced on scraps that she found. She followed other chainsaw sculptors and studied how they created eyes or other features. Eventually, she graduated to a gas chainsaw. 

 After meeting with a potential client and deciding on a design, Meredith shaves the bark off any stump - mostly dead palms or oaks and sometimes trees that are cut down by electric companies. “I work on all kinds of stumps. Clients usually have a general design in mind, leaving me some room for artistic license. Many of my clients have incredibly creative and cool ideas.”

 She then sketches out a design on the tree, then carves, grinds, and paints the stump. Most jobs take up to two days from conception to completion. Prices vary depending on the complexity of the job. Maintenance may be required, in the form of touch ups to paint or resealing, depending on the tree’s proximity to the water and sun. 

 To view Meredith’s work, visit her Facebook business page: by searching Della Meredith Chainsaw Carvings or her website www.chainsawdella.com. For an estimate, please call her at 281.884.2163.

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